On craft

On Hector in the Redwoods

by Mathew Gavin Frank

[Mathew Gavin Frank reflects on writing “Hector in the Redwoods” in ROOTED: The Best New Arboreal Nonfiction]

I definitively did not want to write a memoir about my mother’s battle with cancer, and how that affected my wife and me.

I was more interested in exploring the often-clandestine everyday goings-on at the medical marijuana farm—the fantastic, the mundane, the dangerous, the goofy. I needed, in fact, to immerse myself in the milieu of Weckman Farm in order to force some larger context out of hiding, to induce that “larger” story into which I could fold my meager—and not terribly unique—personal narrative. But of course, if my wife and I fled toward the pot farm, part of the narrative involved establishing, at least in backdrop, the thing from which we were fleeing. Outwardly admitting that I misremembered things about our time on the pot farm came only with the third draft. I want the essay to not only allow for the faults of memory, but also, rather than sweeping such faults under the narrative table, to turn up the heat beneath such faults, inflame them, bring them to the surface and engage them. I became interested in using disclaimer and a “cloak of unreliability” to get away with something. To allow myself to speculate. To allow myself to fill in the blanks. And sometimes, to honor those blanks.

 

Mathew Gavin Frank is the author of the nonfiction books, The Mad Feast: An Ecstatic Tour Through America’s Food, Preparing the Ghost: An Essay Concerning the Giant Squid and Its First Photographer, Pot Farm, and Barolo; the poetry books, The Morrow Plots, Warranty in Zulu, and Sagittarius Agitprop, and 2 chapbooks. He teaches at Northern Michigan University, where he is the Nonfiction/Hybrids Editor of Passages North. He persevered through this past winter via the occasional one-handed cartwheel in his mind. “Hector in the Redwoods” originally appeared in Pot Farm (University of Nebraska Press).